Updated: Feb 1
This article provides 7 valuable tips to consider for a better accent wall when completing your own masterpiece from reclaimed wood. Reading this before jumping in will not only speed up the process but the results combined will make a noticeable impact, next-level kinda stuff.
Accent walls made up of reclaimed wood wall panels are a sure-fire way to dramatically alter the feel and look of a space. The wood absorbs sound beautifully aiding in the warm close feeling it provides. It is difficult to explain the marvelous effects of barn wood, it’s one of those things you have to experience.
The possibilities are endless considering the wide range of colours available, varying widths, loads of wood species to choose from, and endless patterns to mixed and match. Combine these factors with creative imagination and this is a perfect recipe for the best DIY project of the year.
We have created and installed many accent walls over the past few years including the 1st test run in our family home. Along the way, we have picked up a number of little tricks that save time with exceptional results. Although the following 7 tips are only a sample of what we have learned they will definitely get you moving in the right direction. Let’s begin, shall we?
TIP 1: ACCENT WALL BASE COAT
What we mean by base coat is that the first step in creating a great-looking feature wall is to paint the intended wall or space a dark colour. One coat is sufficient. The reason for this is to blend any imperfections in the wood like nail holes, knot holes, or cracks in the wood. If the wall is left white for example then most definitely there will be white dots scattered across the wall as the light colour will be visible. With a dark base coat in the background, this can be avoided.
To reduce waste and cut costs we recommend checking out the local paint store for returned or clearance paint. Really good deals can be found in the right quantities and don’t rule out asking if they have samples available, might just do the trick. Another idea would be to send a quick blast out on social media looking for leftover paint. Either way, there are definitely deals on this part of the project.
TIP 2: CREATE A VISUAL BY LAYING OUT WALL PLANKS
This could potentially be the most valuable tip of them all and that is to lay out the wall planks in an area with sufficient space to assemble the complete feature. It will take a little extra time but remember going the extra mile will be rewarded. By laying out the wall in advance of fastening it to the wall will provide the opportunity to move pieces around until satisfied with the overall look. This is even true if the boards are of the same colour as each piece of wood will be unique in appearance.
Take into consideration any part of the wall that will be hidden by furniture and focal points should be complemented with the most unique pieces in the wall itself. Once spread out on the floor there will be a couple that strike the eye, make note of them so they can be easily found when installing.
Once you are satisfied with the design/pattern created snap a couple of photos and share them with anyone involved in the project. This gets everyone on the same page and provides an excellent reference point when installing.
TIP 3: STACKING THE ACCENT WALL
Once the pictures have been taken it is now time to disassemble and stack the wall planks according to width and length in their respective colours. This will help with quick reference when selecting the next piece during install keeping the workspace organized by reducing tripping hazards.
Keep in mind if you do stack your wood as explained above the exact picture match may be achieved but you will be close and that is important as long as the wall is stacked from the bottom to the top.
*note: The top of the wall pieces will be on the top of the piles.
TIP 4: WORK AREA SET-UP
It may sound obvious right now but this is the one task that is often missed and that is to set up the workspace with a bench of reasonable size. We have found that using saw horses with an old barn door perfect for our installs. Although a barn door may not be necessary the point is to make a temporary table. The Kreg saw horses (Amazon link) we use work well because they set up and take down fast, they are adjustable and lightweight. We use these things all the time for all kinds of projects and they are strong units with a 1,200 lbs. load rating.
Having all your tools and supplies at a hip level is a back saver over the course of a day or in some cases the weekend. With a workbench set up and all the wall planks stacked in neat piles, there is one more tip to mention before physically installing.
TIP 5: PREPARE TO FASTEN WALL PLANKS
This tip goes against everything we learned growing up and that is to write on your wall with a pencil. Don’t worry we will be covering it up with beautiful barnwood so this is your chance! Locating and marking all wall studs will provide a quick reference when fastening planks with Brad Nails. This will ensure sufficiently anchored fasteners into the wall studs for extra holding power vs just into drywall with no backing behind it. Over time this simple tip will keep the feature wall flat and presentable as the first day it was completed.
The added bonus to marking all studs is that it provides quick stud reference should you ever need to locate a stud in the future. An example would be if down the road a set of floating shelves we added to the accent wall or a mantlepiece where it is important to anchor mounting brackets into studs for strength and support. The vertical lines of brad nail heads by following the stud lines will provide a quick reference.
For this tip locate every stud with a stud finder (Amazon Link) and make a pencil mark on the center. Using a 4 ft level continue the pencil line up to the ceiling and down to the floor.
TIP 6: MASTERING TRICKY CUTS
Mastering tricky cuts are critical and separate the experienced from the novice DIYer. We realize that ability levels vary from one person to the next so this tip is specifically geared towards those that get nervous when making an intricate cut. This tip generally comes into play when dealing with trim or other out-of-the-ordinary obstacles that may be encountered. Most always we box in the intended feature with trim on either side unless the layout plan requires it differently.
The most common tricky cuts occur at bottom of the wall when cutting around adjoining trim or at the top with crown molding. Instead of taking otherwise well fastened and fitting trim on the walls adjoining to the accent wall, we cut around them leaving everything as is hence saving time and a possible wrong measurement cut.
To achieve difficult cuts we find that an inexpensive Contour Gauge Set (Amazon Link) makes this process fast and accurate. These contour gauges come in a set of 3 different sizes/lengths. Basically how it works is whatever contour the gauge is pushed up against it molds to that shape by plastic-like fingers, once removed the contour can be transferred over to the trim to be cut with a jigsaw. Very handy little add-on for so many applications, we use them all the time. If your reading right now and want to see them in action then check out our video linked in this article.
TIP 7: BLENDING FRESH CUTS
Blending freshly cut edges in our opinion is a must. If using authentic reclaimed barn wood then it is 100+ years old and should not have fresh cuts exposed from milling or trimming the plank to length for use as trim. There are many ways to conceal fresh cuts in barnwood but we are just going to focus on using stain. We like the versatility of this method as any stain colour can be used that pulls a single colour out of the wall.
When the feature wall is boxed in by trim then where the planks running in the opposite direction butt up against it is the edge that should be stained. In addition, around out let’s and switches are included in where stain should be applied. Concealing the fresh cuts in these locations will smooth out the wall and will not draw attention rather everything just flows. That’s key.
That sums up the 7 tips to consider for producing a better accent wall. Feature walls are fun and very rewarding DIY projects that can be generally completed in a day or weekend.
Happy building everyone!